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The Human Condition was once perfect and free of adversity. But after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden the human condition became characterized by flaws and failures. We became prone to sin. And with the emergence of sin, we also saw the birth of adversity.
Adversity, which is now a part of our human condition, challenges us on mental, physical, and spiritual levels. There are many sources for the adversity that we face in our lives. These adversities could be a result of our actions. It could be an attack from the enemy. But it could also be the call of the Holy Spirit leading us towards a wilderness that draws us nearer to Him.
Our response to adversity is important. Because it's our response to adversity that determines whether or not we draw closer to God and overcome, or drift further away from him and fall to adversity.
The good news is there is an example to follow. Throughout the Bible we see numerous examples of people just like us who have faced adversity. Their struggles with adversity shed light on how we can biblically respond (or not respond) to adversity and overcome the trials and tribulations that mark our human condition.
This is the 5th week in a series I've entitled "Responding to Adversity" in which we will look at how these Biblical characters responded to adversity, and key takeaways from their struggle with adversity that we can apply to our day-to-day lives. This week's study on responding to adversity will be a look into Gideon's response to the adversity of Insecurity (see link below for last week's devotional, Responding to Adversity - The Jealousy Disease).
The adversity of Insecurity is not partial to persons. Both men and women, young and old, have faced this adversity. Insecurity is rooted in the belief that we are always being compared, either to some performance-based standard, or idealistic notion of perfection. It's then when we compare ourselves to this engrained standard of our belief system that we begin to feel worried and fear of not meeting this standard, which then prompts the negative thoughts that tell us we are worthless, not good enough, or will be rejected.
Gideon faced this adversity when he was called by God to defeat the army of the Midianites. When the Lord approached Gideon, his insecurity became evident when he questioned the mission God had called him to completed because his family was poor, and he was the least of his father's household. Gideon felt that he was unqualified for the task God put in front of him.
But despite his insecurity, we see that Gideon chose to place His faith in God and carry out the tasks God called him to complete. Gideon's response to the adversity of insecurity shows us that we too can overcome insecurity by - 1) using God's standards and expectations as our source of truth, 2) choosing to obey God rather than our own disbelief, and 3) relying on God's guidance and affirmation.
Gideon's Struggle with Insecurity
After 40 years of peace, the children of Israel once again turned away from God. Their disbelief and selfish desires led to once again worship idols (this time the idol of Baal). And because of this idolatry, God turned over the people of Israel into the hands of their enemies, the Midianites.
For 7 years, the Midianites impoverished the land and people of Israel. So much that the people once again cried out to God to save them.
And because of the faithfulness and goodness of our God, He listened to the cries of His people. In response to their cries, God did two things - 1) he sent a prophet to rebuke them for their forgetfulness of God's salvation and power, and idolatry, and 2) He appears before Gideon and calls him to lead the people of Israel to victory.
The powerful exchange between God and Gideon regarding this calling is found in Judges 6:11-24
"Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” Then he said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.” And He said, “I will wait until you come back.” So Gideon went in and prepared a young goat, and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot; and he brought them out to Him under the terebinth tree and presented them. The Angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. Then the Angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the Lord departed out of his sight. Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the Lord. So Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.” Then the Lord said to him, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it The-Lord-Is-Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites." Judges 6:11-24 NKJV
As we see in verse 15, Gideon feels ill-equipped for the position of leadership God has called him to fill. Namely, he feels insecure because of his family's financial status, and his own status in comparison to the rest of his family.
God encourages Gideon in response to his insecurity, as we see Him do with other phrases in their exchange, such as "mighty man of valour", and "go in this might of yours".
And so, encouraged but still not convinced, Gideon asks God for a sign. And graciously God listens and proves that He is God by sending supernatural fire from heaven to consume the offering that Gideon prepared.
Following this exchange, the very same night, God calls Gideon to tear down the altar of Baal, build a new altar for Himself, and sacrifice one of his father's bulls on top of the altar.
In radical submission to the commands of God, Gideon obeys and takes 10 servants within his father's household to complete the task, even at the risk of losing his life!
Gideon's insecurity was not the same as cowardice. And in end, we see that the same Gideon who feared he might not be the right man for the job, ended up being the leader of an enormous victory, in which 300 men carrying trumpets defeated an army of 120,000 soldiers.
Insights into the Adversity of Insecurity
Below are a few considerations regarding this adversity of insecurity -
- Insecurity stems from false comparison. In the story of Gideon, we see that his financial status and societal position were the standards that he was using to compare himself against, and this led him to feel insecure. The only standard we should be comparing ourselves to is God's.
- Insecurity is not the same as cowardice. While both insecurity and cowardice stem from fear, cowardice is the base action that results from giving into this fear. Gideon didn't give into his fear. Rather, he overcame his insecurity and chose to fill the position God had called him to fill, even at the risk of losing his life.
How We Can Respond to Insecurity
Here are 3 ways we can respond to the adversity of insecurity -
1. We can respond to the adversity of insecurity by using God's standards and expectations as our source of truth.
- We often use the standards of our upbringing and environment as our source of truth. We might have grown up in a family where it's only acceptable if you have straight A's and end up being a lawyer or a doctor. Or, you might be living in a city where everyone seems to value appearance, and anything less than name-brand is considered outcast.
- Rather than using the standards of the world, we should strive to implement God's standards as the source of truth in our lives. His standards should dictate how we think, speak, act, and feel. We can learn more about His standards by immersing ourselves in the study and meditation of His Word.
2. We can respond to the adversity of insecurity choosing to obey God rather than our own disbelief.
- Gideon chose to obey God rather than the thoughts of insecurity that made him feel like he wasn't good enough. And just like Gideon, if we are called by God to do something, we should promptly obey despite feeling like we might not be the best person for the job.
- The reality is this, God could have used anyone. But God chose Gideon. And at the end of the day, even though Gideon was blessed by his obedience, the true victory belonged to God. We should keep in mind that even if we don't feel good enough, it doesn't matter, because the victory will never be dependent on our strength, but rather it will be won through the unfailing strength of God. The victory is already won, we just have to obey and claim it.
3. We can respond to the adversity of insecurity by relying on God's guidance and affirmation.
- Gideon wanted to be sure of God's call and so he asked God for a sign.
- If you're feeling insecure, ask God to provide you with assurance! He is faithful and will not withhold any good thing from us. God not only listened to Gideon's request, but all throughout their exchange we see that God provided constant verbal reassurance and encouragement.
"And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” - verse 12
"Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” - verse 14
"Then the Lord said to him, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” - verse 23